Caravati, Searls Win Dem. Council Nominations

Mayor Blake Caravati and newcomer Alexandria Searls were the winners of today’s Democratic nominating caucus for City Council. Voting went for remarkable four rounds, and it was not until the third that the first winner, Blake Caravati, emerged. The entire event lasted nearly five hours. No doubt all of the relevant information will be on George Loper’s website soon, including the exact tallies for each round of voting. The City Council election will be held on May 8th.

37 thoughts on “Caravati, Searls Win Dem. Council Nominations”

  1. Why did the voting have to go on for four rounds? Did the first two rounds produce inconclusive results?

  2. Who would’ve thought that it would take three rounds for an incumbent mayor to win his own party’s nomination for re-election?

    I think there was a passing of the torch and, although Waldo didn’t get the nomination, he surprised a lot of folks with the strength of his support. There were plenty of voters that hadn’t been involved in the Democratic party in the past and, if they maintain their activism, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

    If Waldo and his supporters have the patience and political maturity to continue their civic involvement, inside or outside of government, Charlottesville will be a better place for it.

  3. The format in a nutshell was that there were six candidates, and each round would reduce that number, either by one candidate reaching a 50% majority (and thereby being nominated), and/or the lowest vote-getter being eliminated. So that round by round, we’re left with those candidates still in the running.

    It’s an interesting format, since you can see how a losing candidate’s supporters move to another choice (or go home and lose their voice), once their man or woman is eliminated.

    We’re fortunate in that all six (IMHO) were smart, thoughtful, and brought different strengths to the mix. I thought all six handled themselves well.

  4. In order to win the nomination, a candidate had to receive at least 50 convention votes (CV). If a nominee does not receive at least 50 CV, then the person on the list of nominees with the lowest number of CV is dropped from the list, and another round of voting commences.

    Charlottesville is broken up into voting precincts. Each precinct is given an allotment of votes, based on the number of registered voters living in the precinct compared to the rest of the city of Charlottesville (think along the lines of the electoral college…states with large populations receive more representatives). However, unlike the electoral college, getting a pluralty of votes in a precinct does not entitle you to all of the votes of the electors, only that percentage. There are a total of 100 convention votes to be won in each round of voting.

    A simplified illustration:

    There are three precincts, A, B, and C.

    A has 25% of the registered voters, so precinct A gets 25 convention votes.

    B has 30% of the registered voters, so precinct B gets 30 convention votes.

    C has 45% of the registered voters, so precinct C gets 45 convention votes.

    Total convention votes available: 100

    From precinct A, 10 people show up for the election.

    From precinct B, 6 people show up for the election.

    From precinct C, 12 people show up for the election.

    There are three candidates, Sue, Bob and Ralph. There is only one available nomination, so two candidates must be eliminated.

    In precinct A, Sue gets 5 votes, Bob gets 2 votes, and Ralph gets 3 votes.

    In precinct B, Sue gets 1 vote, Bob gets 2 votes, and Ralph gets 3 votes.

    In precinct C, Sue gets 5 votes, Bob gets 4 votes, and Ralph gets 3 votes.

    Sue: A-12.5 (50% of vote), B-5 (16.67% of vote), C-18.75 (41.67% of vote), for a grand total of 36.25 CV

    Bob: A-5 (20% of vote), B-10 (33.33% of vote), C-15 (33% of vote), for a grand total of 30 CV.

    Raph: A-7.5 (30% of vote), B-15 (50% of vote), C-11.25 (25% of vote), for a grand total of 33.75 CV.

    So none of the above received the required 50 CV. Bob, with the lowest number of CV, is dropped from the list.

    Now the remaining people vote for either Sue or Ralph. One of them should receive at least 50 CV. If there is a tie, they flip a coin to see who wins the nomination.

    It was a very interesting civics lesson this morning. I hope this made sense to you all…I didn’t quite get it until after the first round of voting.

  5. Purely hypothetical … Say a candidate has serious desires to win, and solid beliefs, yet does not win the nomiation, but still garnered very strong support.

    Why would a candidate not run as an independent? This would be an excellent way to try and play down party lines, get more disillusioned voters involved, and maintain one’s civic desire and duty.

    Having parties serves only to divide communities along socio-economic and racial lines (sadly) and running as an independent in the face of this fact may be the right thing to do.

    Just a thought …


  6. Let’s hope that when it is time to choose a mayor it will be handled better than the last time. What a farce!!! No one would second motions, one actually seconded his own nomination. Ridiculous. WALDO – run as an independent.


  7. Waldo won’t run as an independent. He entered the Democratic nomination process because that’s the party that he identifies with most strongly. He and his supporters worked hard and came up short.The nomination process was not a farce. It has its idiocyncrocies (much like the electoral college)and there were some minor innappropriate violations permitted by the chair (such as two seconding speeches being allowed for one candidates), but the reality is, they didn’t effect the outcome.

    Waldo will support the fairly nominated Democratic ticket, just as other candidates would have supported him, had he prevailed. His time will come soon.

    In the meantime, as Waldo said in his speech at the convention, he didn’t have to be elected or appointed to an office in order to become an experienced, dedicated public servant. He’s been working to improve our city outside of government because he loves Charlottesville. You don’t have to be on City Council to make things happen. I suspect that he’ll continue his civic activism and encourage others to do the same, both inside and outside of City Hall.

  8. This was indeed an interesting process.

    If memory serves Waldo had the highest raw vote count on the second ballot, with one more than Blake. Blake, on the other hand, had more Convention Votes, indicating broader support across the precincts. Neither reached the magic 50% CV on that ballot.

    Also, if memory serves, Alex ran next-to-last on every ballot. It’s just that on the fourth ballot, next to last also happened to be first!

    I was at this gathering only to support Waldo. I’d pencilled in Blake for my second vote. After the candidates spoke I changed my second vote to Alex. While she was clearly the most nervous of the candidates, her passion and commitment were clear.

    I voted Waldo and Alex the first three ballots, Waldo the fourth, but am not terribly disappointed by the final result.

  9. If Waldo wants to position himself to run again (successfully) in 2004, he should begin by making sure that he and his supporters continue their involvement in Charlottesville civic affairs beyond the election. One important contribution that they could make is to create a progressive alliance to advocate for Waldo’s issues (social justice, ecology, pedestrian development, and so forth). Unfortunately the Dems for Change are only an election-year phenomenon and it would be great to have a parallel organization (without the Democratic affiliation, so Greens and other non-Dems could get involved) pushing these kinds of issues during the time between elections. But to be successful, it has to be truly broad-based (racially, economically, etc.). If Waldo and his team can pull this off, he would be a shoo-in in 2004.

  10. In the curious world of elective politics, particularly where a party “convention” chooses the annointed ones, there is absolutely no such thing as a “shoo-in.” Just ask the incumbent mayor who required three ballots to become nominated.

    If all three incumbents (Richards, Cox, and Lynch) choose to run in 2004, do you think they would not be considered “shoo-ins” before any new candidates?

  11. Did anyone notice what a classy, intelligent campaign Waldo ran? Here’s a guy who has been doing (and continues to do) all kinds of things to improve the lives of people in Charlottesville. He won’t be on City Council this time around, but you know what?

    I bet he’ll be better positioned to get things done by NOT being tethered to the bureaucracy of City Council.

    This is a man to watch – so get to know him now, because the day will come when you’ll be proud to say you knew him “when.”

  12. Sorry, my misunderstanding. You’re absolutely right.

    The choosing of a mayor was an embarrassment. Swapping votes for mayor for support of the Meadcreek Parkway. It was all about “me, me, me”

  13. I think the fact that Caravati wasn’t nominated until the third ballot speaks more to the fact that there were so many candidates in the mix, rather than his weakness as a candidate. It’s hard to get 50% (however votes are weighted) when there are so many choices.

    As to 2004, my guess is that Cox will be a shoo-in (is that how that’s spelled?) – remember his strong showing at the convention in 2000, and barring some major screw-up, Lynch will likely get another turn. Richards is not such a sure thing. Remember in 2000, it was only the decision of another hopeful (David Simmons? – I’m not sure) to bow out gracefully that cemented her nomination. And her recent little tiff with council about their not being open enough on the Jefferson School decisions won’t win her many friends among the democratic faithful.

    As for Waldo – he ran a damn good campaign, and did a great job of getting his people to turn out (and the way the selection process works, that’s the way you win). My take on his loss was that in spite of his strong showing, there were too many old-line democrats who would vote for anyone other than him. He had strong support from the first ballot on, but his totals didn’t really go up. He had a big lead over Alex at one point, but virtually no one was willing to move to his side after their candidate dropped out. Mind you, this isn’t my view of his talents – I thing his candidacy and his presence was (and hopefully continues to be) a positive thing for our town – just my opinion of the way people were voting.

  14. sandandrew wrote:

    He had strong support from the first ballot on, but his totals didn’t really go up. He had a big lead over Alex at one point, but virtually no one was willing to move to his side after their candidate dropped out.

    I look forward to the numbers being released for analyis (as I can only assume that they will be) so that we can figure out exactly what happened over the course of the day.

    My numbers did go up considerably, IIRC, after Joan Fenton dropped out. After Bern Ewert dropped out, my percentage shot up, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the number of popular votes went up. Again, having the numbers would help, because this is just from my flu-clouded memory. :)

    My take on his loss was that in spite of his strong showing, there were too many old-line democrats who would vote for anyone other than him.

    You may be right. That’s something that we’ll never know for sure, but it’s certainly quite possible. I only lost by a popular vote of 4, though, so it certainly was close. :)

  15. The Charlottesville Democrats should put an end to this crazy convention business and just hold a primary next time instead. It’s quicker and much more democratic. If there had been a straight vote yesterday, Blake and Waldo would have emerged victorious. Instead the contortions of the process resulted in a victory for a candidate who was next to the bottom on all previous ballots. How is this fair????????????

  16. What you could not prevent would be the voting of people, republicans, who would vote in a primary. It’s happened before in Virginia politics.

  17. What has Waldo actually done so far for this city? I haven’t seen anything worthwhile outside of election-year soundbites and face time.

  18. The whole process seemed awfully undemocratic. With no competition from the Republicans, the Democratic convention more or less decided who our city councilors would be. And by the time the last vote was taken, I’d estimate there were less than 100 people in the auditorium. Does it bother anyone that our leaders are chosen by a handful of people who have nothing to do for five hours on a Saturday afternoon?


  19. From George Loper’s site (

    Individuals certified to vote at the beginning of the convention numbered 442, with another 20 or so observers, as compared with the Democratic mass meeting for city council in 2000 when 641 individuals were certified to vote.

    By the fourth ballot, there were 310 people voting, assuming no votes were disqualified – an attrition of approximately 132 participants.

    Josh Chernila

  20. Let’s start with this website. Obviously, it’s of value to you. Then, look at his history of volunteer work at local schools, the Virginia Discovery Museum, Live Arts, Computers 4 Kids. His service on the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation’s board. His work with the IT Academcy. His work on the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s chalkboard. His anti-curfew activism.

    That’s just off the top of my head. And this stuff isn’t just election-year posturing. He’s been “walking the walk” since he was 15 years old.

    Give the guy a break.

  21. The current and previous councilors all talk about being elected in an at-large system and why that is better than a ward system. But when the democrats nominate new canidates, where you live does matter? City Council appoints school board members from voting districts but says that would be bad for city council.

    Why not elect council by the ward system which is used for the school board and the nomination? The answer is Demorats want to maintain total control with the tyranny of the majority.

  22. I disagree with Waldo on many issues and yet applaud his convictions. In a world where most people hate politics his energy is refreshing. Keep it up Waldo, even though I might have to vote for someone else in a future general election. I expect to see you run in two years, so be ready!

    If you don’t like him, don’t vote for him but trashing him seems small minded and stupid. You could always run yourself and show the world your truth. I will wager that you’ll continue to sit in the shadows and whine.

  23. Here’s one person who would vote for Waldo no matter what party flag he’s running under. Independent, Democrat, whatever. On a municipal level the differences between parties is quite small, and I don’t think that anyone would stop supporting Waldo just because he’s not on the Democratic ticket. Independent, anyone?

  24. Anonymous wrote:

    If there had been a straight vote yesterday, Blake and Waldo would have emerged victorious. Instead the contortions of the process resulted in a victory for a candidate who was next to the bottom on all previous ballots. How is this fair????????????

    I feel I should play devil’s advocate here. Fair warning: I’m still down with the flu, so my apologies in advance if this makes no sense. :)

    Perhaps this run-off systems enables candidates that really should win to do so. Perhaps Alexandria Searls was lost in the noise, and people had voted for me in the first rounds solely because they felt that I was the most colorful character there. But when it came time to actually consider Alexandria vs. me, people chose Alexandria because they thought she was a more qualified candidate than I.

    I’m no political scientist, nor am I a sociologist. (Nor am I particularly fond of our current system.) But I do recognize that it’s altogether possible that this system actually enables the most popularly-desirable candidates to bubble to the top.

    I would like to see more discussion about the merits of different systems. But my flu-addled brain is not allowing me to think along those lines just yet. :)

  25. I was talking to a friend yesterday about the convention. This friend is a statistics-and-math whiz who knows lots more than I do about such things, and his point was that no matter what system is used (and there are all sorts of ways to pick from a field of multiple candidates), there will always be something about the system that’s unfair to someone. The science of statistics is confusing as hell, and when applied to voting methods (and the various egos involved), it gets worse.

    As to a primary, I’m certainly not privy to the thinking of party insiders, but my guess is that the logistics of holding a primary is a LOT more complicated and expensive. You’ve got to organize and man polling places all over the city all day for however many people might happen to turn out. The thinking is that holding a convention means the decision will be made by those people who are commited enough to the party to show up (and hang in there long enough) to make a difference.

    Remember two years ago when the party “convention” didn’t actually nominate candidates, but attendees merely voted for “delagates” who then attended a second meeting which, I think after several ballots, nominated Cox, Lynch and Richards. I’d argue that the system this time was considerably more “fair” to the voter – anyone who had a few hours to devote to the effort had a real and direct say in the outcome.

    Of course anyone is welcome to bitch and moan about the process – that’s what democracy is all about – but the political reality is that governments and political parties are run by those who make the effort to make their voices heard. If you don’t like what went on with the nominating process, then show up at party meetings, bring your friends and try and change things.

  26. Talk about dreaming! this will never happen! The dem’s aren’t given up their control of the city. If you want to vote republican move to the county.

  27. Anonymous wrote:

    Here’s one person who would vote for Waldo no matter what party flag he’s running under. Independent, Democrat, whatever. On a municipal level the differences between parties is quite small, and I don’t think that anyone would stop supporting Waldo just because he’s not on the Democratic ticket. Independent, anyone?

    I’ve been hearing a lot about this in the past 48 hours. And that’s saying a lot, given that I’ve barely been out of bed since Saturday afternoon. (I’ve spent today in my La-Z Boy. Does that count?) Thank you for your kind words — I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t flattered. In addition, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment about party politics on a city level.

    That said, I can’t run as an independent, a Green, or anything else. There are a few reasons why, but the #1 reason is because I signed an agreement on Saturday morning that I would not support anybody other than the Democratic nominees for City Council. That agreement is surely not legally binding, but it’s morally binding; I gave my word. If I don’t have my word, I’ve got nothing left.

  28. Charlottesville is so tied up with the democrat party , no one else has a chance at getting on City Council. Christ himself could run but if he wasnt’ a democrat he wouldn’t get elected.


  29. I discussed this with Waldo and a few other people a bit after the convention. Having never been able to vote in a convention in the past, I was amazed at how excruciatingly slow the process was. It took so long that once it was time for the fourth and final vote, just over 100 people were left out of over 400. I can’t help but thing that it’s quite possible that the election would have had different results had everyone who wanted to been able to vote all four times.

    Thus I’d like to throw out the idea of computerizing the nomination process. Have there be, say, ten curtained booths (just like what we do government voting on) each with a cheap old computer in them. On it is a screen with each candidate’s name. When you click on a name, it asks you if you’re sure that’s the candidate you want to vote for. For good measure, it could double-check after that. Once the voter has verified their choice, it registers their vote and then locks the computer so they can’t vote multiple times. They leave the booth, a voting overseer goes in, unlocks the computer for the next person, and the next person goes in. I’m quite certain the computers and software could be aquired free of charge, since you don’t need anything fancy for either. I’ve probably overlooked details, but that’s why I’m putting this out there for discussion. What do people think?

  30. Waldo,

    My father ran for congress on a third party and didn’t win. He knew that his chances were slim, but he put his name in the hat in order to influence the middle ground of the debate and bring certain issues to the table. Although I’m sure you had every intention of running a serious race, it is evident that you ran a platform of ideas and issues. This is appreciated by everyone except for the politically entrenched.

    I regret that I haven’t made my move from Washington to Charlottesville yet. I would have voted for you, but I still appreciate what you are doing for the political scene. Add me to another person who encourages you to keep it up. I already prefer the political scene of c’ville to DC. ;)

    Duane Gran

    SpinWeb –

  31. You sound like you really don’t support the candidates they chose. If you did, you’d say something nice about them instead of it being all about you. I heard you lost because it was all about you.

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